Writing a Career Action Plan

If you have an idea of the direction you want your career path to take, it is an excellent idea to compose a Career Action Plan. A written plan will help guide you in the right direction and will also keep you focused and determined to reach the goals you set forth in your plan.

Career action plans are not legal documents and they are not set in stone. They are guides that will lead you in the right direction as you move through the stages of your career development. These plans can be changed, altered and modified if necessary as your career progresses and evolves.

Why is a Career Action Plan so Important?

Career action plans have several purposes. Primarily, they are used for the following:

• To help you decide what profession to pursue.

• To help you determine if you should attend school for an advanced degree.

• To convey your professional goals.

• To help you stay motivated to your reach milestones.

• To assist you in determining if you should make a career change.

No matter what format you use to write your career action plan, it should provide you with ideas and guidance on how you should go about reaching your career goals.

Career action plans are not necessarily documents that should be presented to potential employers during job interviews. Rather, they are personal documents that should be kept as handy references that can be reviewed at any time. Career action plans should help you keep your goals and career aspirations in mind. They should also help you focus on what you feel are the most important pieces of your professional life.

What Does a Career Action Plan Look Like?

There is not a set format that a career action plan must have. In fact, plans can vary in size from one or two paragraphs to several pages. Career action plans are unique to each individual. They are personalized and contain information that applies only to you.

The most important features of effective career action plans include:

• Professional likes and dislikes.

• Steps that you will take to obtain your desired job.

• Goals that you have for yourself in terms of professional growth.

• A timetable that you have given yourself to reach your professional goals.

• A list of other professionals that will provide you with advice if you need it.

• Steps you will take when you must deal with professional obstacles.

There are many career action plan templates, worksheets and suggestions on how to complete a plan on the Internet:

  1. CareerDevelopmentHelp.com – This template suggests that your career action plan should include clear and focused professional goals, information about the education you would like to obtain, detains about the required education for your desired career, necessary professional skills, a timeline for accomplishing each step in your plan, and a date by which you hope to complete your initial goals.

  2. CareerPlanning.About.com – This worksheet suggests keeping a log of past employers, education history, training, certificates, professional licenses, volunteer experience, self assessments on what types of careers are optimal, short term career goals, education goals, long term career plans, and long term career goals. The worksheet also requires adding barriers to career goals so that they can be kept under control.

  3. SettingandAchievingGoals.com – This worksheet suggests keeping a log of goals, motivations, action steps, obstacles, responses, resources, action starters, mini-goals and milestones.

Do You Know Where Your Career Will be In 10 Years?

During job interviews you may be asked the common question, “Where do you want to be in 10 years?” Most people do not know how to answer this question, and they usually come up with some sort of generic response such as, “I hope to grow with the company and eventually move into a position with more responsibility.”

Wouldn’t it be great, however, if you really knew where you wanted to be in 10 years? If you have a career action plan in place, you will have a good idea of where you want your career to be in one year, five years, 10 years, and more!

Putting your plan in writing will allow you to trust your judgment when it comes to making career choices, it will remind you about your professional talents and experience, and it will encourage you to have a positive attitude about how far your career has the potential of excelling.

Writing Down Your Goals Makes Them Real

It is easy to daydream about having a successful career. However, those who daydream are the least likely to achieve their goals. The best way to set goals and remain determined to reach those goals is to write them down on paper. Seeing them in writing is motivating and encouraging. Following your career aspirations is easier when you have a checklist that can be used as a reference for the duration of your professional journey.

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Written by Melanie Fischer, Career & Job Expert who has been writing professionally for over 10 years.